Nov 25, 2009

Your BIM Options: Archicad or Revit?

The Construction and Design industry has a new friend: Building Information Modeling (BIM). You must have heard of it, it seems to be everywhere. BIM can be defined as a computer-aided process that generates and manages building data information throughout the life cycle of a given structure. True or not, I tend to believe that's too idealistic to apply for most professionals. In my simpler and more practical terms, I say BIM is currently used the upgraded Computer-Aided Design (CAD) in 3D; the biggest change in architectural design and construction management since computers became available for common office use.

If you had the chance to work with BIM in the past years, you are probably wondering how the heck we survived without it in the past. It seems rather intuitive - at times. If you haven't been able to use it yet, don't worry, you will. The 2 biggest BIM products in the market are ArchiCAD(by Graphisoft), and Revit (by Autodesk).

Having had the chance to work with both computer programs in the past years, I have been asked which one I like the best. It is hard to find the magic bullet, when both will give you corrupted files and gray hairs. I hope you find the low down below useful. I have tried to be fair and objective*.

1. Easy Team working and sharing: Revit
Because it allows you to borrow, without becoming an owner. ArchiCAD's marquee tool is still missed.

2. Early Schematic Planning: Revit
Because of its Color Scheme and Design Options tools.

3. Demolition Work: Revit
Because of its phase and phase filters options. ArchiCAD would require layer combinations.

4. Line Weight Management: Revit
This feature is similar to Autocad's system, so it feels easier to understand and manage.

5. Compatibility: Revit
Most engineers, materials and equipment consultants are using Revit. Sure you can use Naviswork in you are an ArchiCAD user, but that adds an extra step.

6. Project Navigation: ArchiCAD
ArchiCAD's project browser is more like ADT's navigator. It is better organized. Different programs, same company.

7. Components and Families Creation: Revit
I need to have a BIM manager creating families working on the side. Plus, Revit has numerous resources online.

8. Working in plan view and RCPs: Revit
You can easily fix those wall joins in Revit. You can use filled regions, invisible lines, etc. Not so much flexibility in ArchiCAD. Both programs give you wall priority options.

9. Composite Manager: ArchiCAD
Great tool. Revit does not come with this general management tool. You can individually edit composite/object parameters and load to project if applicable.

10. Templates: Archicad
Both ArchiCAD and Revit come with a template file. But when it comes to interface, I prefer Archicad's.

11. Drafting and Detailing: ArchiCAD
By far, ArchiCAD wins this one. Not only can you easily work with your BIM elevations and sections, but you can also create your own with easy to work drafting tools.

12. Dimensioning and other Plan Annotations: Revit
Even though ArchiCAD is better when detailing, Revit handles plan notes better.

13. Construction Administration: Revit
You can find Clouds and Revision tools.

14. Printing: Revit
Easier, it works just like any other program. ArchiCAD's way feels unnecessarily complex.

15. Less Crashes, Corrupted Files and other Synchronization Issues: ArchiCAD.
As a consequence, I have heard that it is ideal for larger and more complex projects.

16. Available Support: Revit
From personal experience, I had found Autodesk to be more visible, accessible, and with far more training resources.

17. Scheduling: Revit
This is where Revit gives you great flexibility to modify, control, filter, and sort...

Depending on what you want to use BIM for, you can choose what's better for you. I tried to lay this out as fairly as possible from an architectural production and coordination perspective. I've had the chance to work with BIM for years, and it definitely has its advantages. Both are great programs, and lately I'm hearing of more firms having to choose one over the other one. If someone asked me again, which BIM program I think is better, Archicad or Revit? I would say, my dream BIM project has an ArchiCAD navigator, connects me to all the Revit resources, does planning and design in Revit, and gives me ArchiCAD tools for construction documentation. In sum, there is still work to be done in the BIM-sphere.

I hope you found this comparison helpful. See you around,

*Note that I am comparing Revit 2009, and ArchiCAD 11. Revit 2010 is said to be able to handle larger projects now that it has a 64-bit software. And ArchiCAD 13 is said to have improved its worksharing greatly.

Nov 17, 2009


Check this article about Starbucks by the Wall Street Journal. Just like Wal-mart is looking for ways to improve profit margins by bringing a new retail design, Starbucks is expecting to cut costs by adapting the Lean techniques into the way they make the coffee.

It is a couple of months old, I know. But you might have missed it. And since we've been talking about retailers today, I think it fits the theme. The economy is challenging top management and marketers to respond with new and better ways to make $$$. There is quite a bit for retail architects to catch on.


Walmart: New Retail Design

Wal-mart, the biggest retailer in the world, does not rest on its laurels. A few days ago, I went to a Wal-mart in Newark, Ohio. My very first reaction had me stopping on my feet to see it all, this is different. All of a sudden, I was walking into a much brighter, cleaner, more open store. Everything that I had in my grocery list was visible -well, almost everything. There were bigger signs, lower aisles, wider corridors, 45 degree lanes... definitely a more inviting retail design.

Some time ago, I had read that Wal-mart was moving into a new direction, and would be changing their stores to improve the consumer experience. This initiative was part of their Project Impact model, a new initiative to turn their stores into a quick stop shop with friendlier and cleaner spaces. But how soon would I seeing or noticing the improvements of this retail giant? Soon enough.

On their website, Wal-mart writes: The new layout creates an open shopping environment with wider aisles that contain no product displays. Lower shelving throughout the store creates an improved sightline and directional signage on every aisle helps customers find what they are looking for quickly.

The new design is a responsible factor behind their recent performance improvements. Their inventory turn over has greatly reduced, offering the customer the chance to get what they need without the visual clutter around it. In the current economic downturn and in the middle of pre-holiday season, other retailers must be looking around for new ways to attract customers. Taking a look at Wal-mart's improvements, changing the retail design is one of them.

On my way out, I even had a double-sided receipt, a greener move. Now that the holiday season is about to begin, will we see other stores copying this concept? Or will we soon be seeing a better model?

In the mid time, (an early) Happy Holidays.

Nov 15, 2009

Renzo Piano

Yesterday I ran into a group picture with Renzo Piano. Nothing glamorous or professional, simply a group picture. Something about him gave me the impression of a very approachable down-to-earth person.
On that note, I have to say that those talented and intelligent people, who are aware of their abilities, are easier to work with when they are not contemptuous to others. As a professional coach would write, one must take care not to be a victim of their 0wn success. I'm sure the ones around the intelligent and talented appreciate that.

Nov 13, 2009

Indeed, yes, we found water.

Nasa has said, "Indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn't find just a little bit. We found a significant amount." This significant amount is 25 gallons found in the lunar crash led by NASA last month. This is a great discovery in the science world. New exciting studies and explorations will now begin. Humankind can now see themselves moving to the moon in a feasible future.
But aside from this being a magnificent discovery, we have also opened up the doors for a new theme in architecture school studios and design competitions: What will the architecture of the future will be like? What will new cities be like? ...more specifically: in the moon.

Let your imagination run wild.

Calling All Women

A new article in the AIA Archiblog has been posted by a SCAD professor. Calling All Women byAlexis Gregory refers to stats collected by an independent study, and also by Clemson University. She presents the raising percentages of women attending architecture schools, and their small presence in the profession. This comes as no surprise to those of us who are working in the field. Gregory also explains what she believes are the reasons for the low numbers, and the obstacles female architects have to overcome.

To play devil's advocate, statistics give us the ability to turn hypotheses into the theses we want them to be. This would allow anyone to make apparent correlations from partially related subjects. What's more, perhaps women do join architecture schools with the ultimate goal of becoming care takers of their families. A male-dominated industry would have little to do with their career paths of choice. However, - I must admit - comments left by women in the industry have a bitter taste of reality.

Nov 12, 2009

Rome's Newest Museum

A new building has been added to the must-see iconic list of buildings in the historic city of Rome. This Saturday, Maxxi, the new museum of contemporary art designed by Zaha Hadid, opens up to the public for an 'architectural preview'.
Nicolai Ouroussoff writes for the New York Times: "The completion of the museum is proof that this city is no longer allergic to the new and a rebuke to those who still see Rome as a catalog of architectural relics for scholars or tourists... A generation of Romans can now walk out their front doors knowing that the conversation with the past is not so one-sided."

Groundbraking and naming ceremony took place on March 2oth, 2003.

For the full NY Times article on the subject, click here.

Nov 10, 2009

The IDP & ARE Experience: Perseverance Is The Key

This article was posted on the AIA Associate News, November 2009 under Articles of Interest:

Most likely, the beginning of my IDP experience was just like yours. I opened my NCARB file back in 2004 with the support of my firm, and using the recent graduate discount. Back in 2004, there was no economic downturn. Everything was booming and moving at a fast pace. As a recent graduate with a Masters from the Savannah College of Art and Design, I sure was glad to have chosen an accredited NAAB program. Without which, you would have to go back to school if they you ever wanted to get licensed.

At first, filling my IDP credits was extremely intimidating. All the categories, the 700 credits, and the required experience in those seemingly unattainable sub-categories —how did they come up with such an intricate system? It felt so challenging that I didn’t file anything for more than a year. Then I realized that if I wanted to be a licensed architect, I needed to get on with my credit history. The accounting ladies were kind enough to print me dozens of pages of detailed work of all the hours I had logged. And in one weekend day, I was able get on track. Before my IDP experience was over, NCARB came up with a new IDP catalog and rules. I wished they had ‘clouded’ the changes so that more interns could catch the change. For once –at least for me– NCARB had great news: IDP credit will be given at 1.5 units per hour for all continuing education programs. Finally, attending lunch and learns, hard-hat tours, and other continuing education sessions was paying off. In 2007, I was able to finish my IDP.

Next step in the process was to get an ARE candidate number. Working with Virginia’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) and NCARB took another half a year to complete; lots of phone calls, lots of “we are processing it” answers. Something that perhaps not all states do is the written test that DPOR mails you. It is more like an open-book test about professional ethics and resource information. The answers are available online; you must fill in the multiple choice questionnaire and mail it back. I have to say that DPOR was always easy to reach, over the phone or via email.

Choosing the order of my ARE exams had me asking everywhere and reading everything: interns at work, interns knew through the AIA local chapter, college classmates, the, etc. They all had different answers. But if someone asks me now, I would say three things. First, start with Construction Documents: it gives you a good frame of reference for your ARE goals, and your firm. Secondly, don’t stop there; all the ARE exams are somewhat connected, so keep studying. And three, the best time to study is winter; you will find fewer excuses to go out and not study. The new version ARE 4.0 was a great motivator. NCARB’s transition chart was what kept me going and studying in an attempt to get done before June 30th. Talking in new version terms, I am done with six exams, and I am studying for my very last exam. I will definitely schedule it before the new cut-off date, October 1st. By the end of the year, I am hoping to read AIA letters after my name.

Between here and there, I’ve had several project deadlines to meet, transferred my license registration from one state to another, and renewed my NCARB files twice. But the closer you get to the end of the ARE list, the better you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The AREs are just a means to an end. The end, obviously, is becoming a licensed architect. We haven’t gone this far to stop before the finish line, we can do it.

Nov 8, 2009

The BIM Race: Architects v. Contractors

Without a doubt, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the way of the future in the construction and design world.
If you have had the chance to work with BIM for a few years, and then tried to get something done in ADT or AutoCAD, I bet you wondered how the heck you made it work before the BIM revolution.
Professionals in the industry, like Raymond Kogan, suggest that the big push for BIM will be coming (if it isn't already) from the owners and the contractors side. This is leaving architects and designers as the trend followers. Why could that be? Aren't designers the ones to be on the avant-garde?

I have seen contractors modeling projects at owners' request, and using programs like Naviswork, capable of combining 3D project information from a variety of programs and disciplines.
But anyone can use Naviswork, piece all the pieces of the puzzle together, and have it to use at the contruction site. Why would the contractor be taking over this additional service? Contractors must be selling it as a key piece to their well-coordinated time-critical performance. In an industry where money is tight and time is precious, clients must love this high-tech approach and see the value.
On the other hand, what happened to the architect's role as the big orchestrator of all contructions? what happened to the A201 Contract Document where the architect acts as the owner's agent? And the engineering part of a project is contracted by the architect's consultants. Can't the architect take charge of the overall 3D modeling of the project too?
BIM has been a hard pill to swallow for some architecture firm managers who see the learning curve as an additional expense. Learning a new computer program doesn't go on without its bumps and delays. Contractors saw the bigger picture and the dollar signs first, and have been jumping on the BIM wagon faster. So for now, they are winning the BIM race. Maybe the newest delivery model: Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) will even out the road for architects in the future.